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Avoiding Knee-Jerk Reactions

Originally published: 04.01.14 by Greg McAfee


It’s Monday, and Bob is on the way to Bob’s HVAC Company, where he serves as company president. After a great weekend with his family, he is enjoying the beautiful, sunny commute; however, when he is only a couple miles from his office, his phone begins to vibrate.

“Oh geez,” Bob thinks, and immediately picks up. “What’s up, John?” he asks his sales manager, though he isn’t sure he wants to know the answer. 

 “Are you sittin’ down?” John asks. 

 “Well, yeah … since I’m in the car. What’s going on?” 

 “An attic installation we did for the Schmidts last week hasn’t turned out so well. The owners left on vacation right after the install. When they arrived home this morning, Mr. Jones found water seeping under the door, and when they opened it, they discovered that their ceiling is … well, lying on the living room floor. All their carpets are ruined, as well as their furniture, and there are two inches of sitting water.” While Bob remains speechless for a moment, John continues, “It, uh … well, I guess our guys didn’t run the condensate drain properly.” 

 Of course, Bob has insurance, as he’s been in business for nine years and has worked hard to build a company that provides jobs and incomes for 10 families. However, this is not the Monday morning news he expected. He hangs up with John with narya- word,

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storms into the office, and demands that the installers report to him immediately. The installers are two loyal, hardworking employees who have been with the company for a number of years. Furious, Bob begins yelling and swearing at them, only to be interrupted by one of the men. 

 “But, Boss, it was 120 degrees up there and difficult to work, so –”

In no mood for excuses, Bob is ready to do some serious cutting off of his own. “Both of you get your tools and belongings out of my truck and get off the premises. You’re FIRED!” 

 None of us wants to receive a call like this; and if we have, we don’t want to receive one again. It may be easy to understand Bob’s knee-jerk reaction. However, chances are, an hour or two later, that Bob regretted his decision and questioned his logic. What could Bob have done differently to better handle this situation and address the issues? Below are three things that could’ve helped.

1. Be prepared.

 It’s not just for Boy Scouts, folks! Bob was just starting his day and was surely not expecting such a phone call. However, it is always wise to hope for the best and be prepared for the worst. As owners, we must be willing to expect the unexpected, as ugly as things can get. When we hear bad news, we should be prepared to employ the countto- 10 concept to calm down and face the issues without overreacting. Save fatalities, everything is fixable. How we react to a catastrophe in front of our team sets an example, so make sure your leadership style is one of remaining calm, cool, and collected in the storms that will inevitably come your way.

2. Delegate.

Bob’s HVAC was a company of average size, with employees and managers in place. As company president, there was no need for Bob to get involved directly with the installers. While it would have been in his best interest to work directly with the Schmidts and the insurance companies on these issues, Bob did not use John, his field manager, as he should have. Once a company grows to a certain size, an owner/president is employed from the neck-up and needs to relinquish some control to his capable underlings and quit touching everything. Had Bob trusted John and been willing to delegate, he more than likely would still have two hardworking, loyal installers on his staff. They could’ve learned from their mistakes and likely wouldn’t have repeated them.

3. Make the most of training opportunities.

Bob should’ve asked John several important questions. First of all, should installers even be in attics when temperatures climb to a certain level? Second, why was the drain line run incorrectly? Were the installers properly trained to run a drain in an attic?

We all face problems, challenges, and accidents. The way we deal with these issues will make all the difference when it comes to company and personal success. Remember that knee-jerk reactions often end in regret and leave you feeling like ... well, a jerk! 

Greg McAfee founded McAfee Heating & Air Conditioning Co. Inc. in 1990 when he was 27 years old. Today, in addition to running his business, Greg consults and teachers others about successful business management. For more information, visit his Website at www.gregmcafee.com


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